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National emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates (1941-1945)

National emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates (Hoheitszeichen mit Direktionsbezeichnung) were instituted on July 03, 1941 by the Oder of the Imperial Transport Minister (Reichsverkehrsminister) Dr.-Ing. Julius Heinrich Dorpmüller (24.07.1869-05.07.1945). Paragraph 8 of Article I (“Service uniform”) from Section A (“Regulations for the German territory including Alsace, Lorraine and Luxembourg”) stipulated that “National emblem indicating regional assignment embroidered in yellow on a black base [is worn] on the upper left sleeve of a tunic and a jacket”. The same paragraph revoked previous short-lived insignia consisting of cuff titles (Ärmelstreifen) and sleeve eagles (Ärmelhoheitszeichen) that were introduced shortly before, on February 13, 1941 by the Order of the Imperial Transport/Traffic Ministry (Reichsverkehrsministerium). Just to give a general idea of those early sleeve eagles it’s worth mentioning here that they were either machine or hand embroidered, depending on the status of an Imperial Railways official.

According to an Order of July 03, 1941, new pattern national emblems, a.k.a. Sleeve eagles were worn on the upper left sleeve of a service uniform, i.e. dark blue tunic (Rock) and a jacket (Joppe) of the same colour. Sleeve emblem had a shape of a black cloth semicircle, flat across the top and rounded at the bottom, bearing Third Reich coat of arms embroidered in golden-yellow, i.e. an eagle with outstretched wings looking to its right shoulder and gripping a swastika in an oak leaves wreath. A title of German Imperial Railways unit running in semicircle and executed in golden-yellow Roman letters (Antiquaschrift) as well was situated below an eagle.

Overwhelming majority of cloth sleeve emblems, both eagles and titles, were machine woven using an artificial silk thread and following a so-called BEVo technique, an acronym that derived its name from the Wuppertal-Barmen-based company Bandfabrik Ewald Vorsteher, the principal manufacturer of Third Reich-era woven insignia. Machine embroidered emblems made of cotton thread on wool base or even hand embroidered bullion patterns were produced in limited quantities and mainly in occupied countries. Sleeve eagles woven in grey on black cloth were of the rarest pattern. Printed versions of cloth national emblems existed as well.

A short description of German Imperial Railways structure is needed before listing known sleeve eagles of its various territorial Directorates and Divisions.

As of 1927, German State Railways Society (Deutsche Reichsbahn Gesellschaft, DRG) consisted of 24 Directorates of German State Railways (Reichsbahndirektionen, RBD) that were responsible for uninterrupted regular traffic, steam engines operations, repairing work of rolling stock and executed all the other functions that were not carried out directly by the Ministry of Transport. Most of Directorates had their own letter code.

RBD Altona /renamed RBD Hamburg in 1937/ – code “A”
RBD Berlin – code “B”
RBD Breslau
RBD Dresden – code “D”
RBD Elberfeld /renamed RBD Wuppertal in 1930/
RBD Erfurt – code “U”
RBD Essen/Ruhr – code “E”
RBD Frankfurt/Main – code “F”
RBD Halle (Saale) – code “L”
RBD Hannover – code “H”
RBD Karlsruhe – code “R”
RBD Kassel
RBD Köln – code “K”
RBD Königsberg (Pr.)
RBD Magdeburg /disbanded on October 01, 1931 with transfer of its duties to RBD Halle, RBD Berlin, RBD Altona and RBD Hannover/
RBD Mainz
RBD Münster (Westf.)
RBD Oldenburg /disbanded on January 01, 1935 with transfer of its duties to RBD Münster and RBD Hannover/
RBD Oppeln
RBD Osten (with headquarters located in Frankfurt (Oder))
RBD Schwerin – code “W”
RBD Stettin
RBD Stuttgart – code “T”
RBD Trier /renamed RBD Saarbrücken in 1935/ – code “S”

The autonomous Bavarian Group Administration (Gruppenverwaltung Bayern) created on April 01, 1920 and comprising of six Directorates was incorporated into the German Imperial Railways Society at the end of 1933.

- RBD Augsburg
- RBD Ludwigshafen/Rhein /disbanded on April 01, 1937 with transfer of its duties to RBD Mainz and RBD Saarbrücken/
- RBD München – code “M”
- RBD Nürnberg – code “N”
- RBD Regensburg
- RBD Würzburg /merged with RBD Nürnberg on January 01, 1931/

Two new Railways Directorates were established in 1939 following incorporation of the former imperial German and Polish areas into Germany.

RBD Danzig (Reichsgau Danzig-Westpreußen)
RBD Posen  (Reichsgau Wartheland)

By April 01, 1941 codification of  Directorates of German Imperial Railways (shortened to Deutsche Reichsbahn, since February 02, 1937) within Greater Germany was changed to numerical one in addition to the name of the city in which the headquarters of the individual RBD was located. The following is a listing of the known Reichsbahndirektionen.

1. RBD Hamburg
2. RBD Augsburg
3. RBD Berlin
4. RBD Breslau
5. RBD Kassel
6. RBD Dresden Vollspur / RBD Dresden Schmalspur (wide and narrow tracks railways)
7. RBD Danzig
8. RBD Wuppertal
9. RBD Erfurt
10. RBD Essen
11. RBD Frankfurt/Main
12. RBD Halle (Saale)
13. RBD Hannover
14. RBD Karlsruhe
15. RBD Köln
16. RBD Königsberg (Pr.)
17. RBD Linz
18. RBD Posen
19. RBD Mainz
20. RBD München
21. RBD Münster (Westf.)
22. RBD Nürnberg
23. RBD Oppeln
24. RBD Osten (with headquarters located in Frankfurt/Oder)
25. RBD Saarbrücken
26. RBD Regensburg
27. RBD Schwerin
28. RBD Stettin
29. RBD Stuttgart
30. RBD Villach
31. RBD Wien

Thus, national emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates could be divided into the following five categories.

1. Emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates (Reichsbahndirektionen, RBD).

2. Emblems of Military Transportation Directorates (Wehrmachtsverkehrsdirektionen, WVD).

3. Emblems of Imperial Transportation Directorates (Reichsverkehrsdirektionen, RVD).

4. Emblems of General Transportation Directorates (Hauptverkehrsdirektionen, HVD).

5. Emblems of other divisions.

To make an article complete some mention should be made of three more types of German Imperial Railways Directorates, though none of them had personalized sleeve emblems. General Government being a separate administrative region of the Third Reich that was created on October 12, 1939 soon after German invasion in Poland, had four Eastern Railways Operational Directorates (Ostbahn-Betriebsdirektionen, OBD), OBD Krakau, OBD Lublin, OBD Radom and OBD Warschau having been established on October 26, 1939. December 1940 saw their status being upgraded to that of Eastern Railways District Directorates (Ostbahn-Bezirksdirektionen). Two more Ostbahn-Bezirksdirektionen, OBD Galizien and OBD Lemberg were established on August 01, 1941 on the occupied territory of the Soviet Ukraine.

Absence of specific sleeve eagles was the case of another type of German Imperial Railways Directorates, namely Railways Operational Directorates (Eisenbahnbetriebsdirektion, EBD). None of the five EBD, i.e. Brünn, Königgrätz, Olmütz, Pilsen and Prag that were formed on March 15, 1939 in Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia (Protektorat Böhmen und Mahren) had its own national emblem.

 

1. National emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates

National emblems of German Imperial Railways Directorates that were described above are most common on period photos of Deutsche Reichsbahn personnel. As appears from the list of Reichsbahndirektionen as of 1941, there were totally 32 Directorates in the Third Reich. RBD Münster sleeve eagle having been produced in two patterns, i.e. “RBD Münster” and “RBD Münster (Westf)” and that of two Dresden Directorates, viz. Dresden (Vollspur) and Dresden (Schmalspur) having only one emblem (“RBD Dresden”), the complete list of known sleeve eagles consists of 32 pieces that are listed below in the alphabetical order. 

Reichsbahn 41 45 Plate 1

- RBD Augsburg

- RBD Berlin
- RBD Breslau
- RBD Danzig
- RBD Dresden
- RBD Erfurt
- RBD Essen
- RBD Frankrurt (Main)
- RBD Halle
- RBD Hamburg
- RBD Hannover
- RBD Karlsruhe
- RBD Kassel
- RBD Köln
- RBD Königsberg (Pr)
- RBD Linz
- RBD Mainz
- RBD München
- RBD Münster
- RBD Münster (Westf)
- RBD Nürnberg
- RBD Oppeln
- RBD Osten 
- RBD Posen
- RBD Regensburg
- RBD Saarbrücken
- RBD Schwerin
- RBD Stettin
- RBD Stuttgart
- RBD Villach
- RBD Wien
- RBD Wuppertal

Some sleeve eagles vary in minor details, e.g. shape of eagle and certain letters.

2. Emblems of Military Transportation Directorates (Wehrmachtsverkehrsdirektion(en), WVD)

Military Transportation Directorates “Brussels” and “Paris” responsible for transportation of military equipment were established in 1940 soon after occupation of France and Benelux countries was complete. The third Wehrmachtsverkehrsdirektion, WVD Italien was founded in late 1943 in Verona to supervise military rail traffic in German-controlled part of Italy.

- WVD Brüssel
- WVD Italien
- WVD Paris

Reichsbahn 41 45 Plate 2

3. Emblems of Imperial Transportation Directorates (Reichsverkehrsdirektion(en), RVD)

German authorities established five Imperial Transportation Directorates on the occupied areas of the Soviet Union.

Imperial Transportation Directorate “Dnepropetrovsk” (RVD Dnjepropetrowsk)

This Reichsverkehrsdirektion was established in Dnepropetrovsk (Ukraine) on December 11, 1942 and placed under command of the Head Transportation Directorate “East” (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten, GVD Osten). Since the end of 1943, advancing Soviet troops repeatedly made headquarters of RVD Dnjepropetrowsk changing its location. Thus, in November 1943 part of Directorate moved to Dolginzevo while another to Uman, but in December it was redeployed to Dolginzevo as well. In January 1944 RVD Dnjepropetrowsk moved to Birzula (Kotovsk), a major railway station and depot on the line Odessa-Zhmerinka, former capital of the Moldavian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in 1928-1929. It was later redeployed to Stanislau (Ivano-Frankovsk) (March 1944) and in May to Jasło in the General Government. The remaining part of Reichsverkehrsdirektion moved to Odessa on March 13, 1944.

Small liquidation unit with a target of an early disbandment of the RVD Dnjepropetrowsk was set up in Birzula on April 23, 1944. Soon after it moved to Radom in the General Government and in July 1944 to Berent in Western Prussia (now Kościerzyna in Poland) where Imperial Transportation Directorate “Dnepropetrovsk” was finally disbanded in September 1944.

RVD Dnjepropetrowsk structure

Maintenance branches (Betriebsämter): Apostolovo, Dolginzevo, Nikolayev, Simferopol, Znamenka.

Repair depots (Maschinenämter): Dolginzevo, Nikolayev, Simferopol.

Executive branches (Verwaltungsämter): Dolginzevo, Nikolayev, Simferopol, Znamenka.

Capital construction branches (Neubauämter): Dolginzevo, Nikolayev, Simferopol. Since November 1943 these branches were located in the railway stations Bobrinskaya in Christinovka and Dolinskaya in Zvenigorodka.

Known head of RVD Dnjepropetrowsk:

09.08.1943 – September 1944: Walter Koch.

Imperial Transportation Directorate “Kiev” (RVD Kiew)

Established in Kiev on September 06, 1941 as General Railways Directorate “South” (Haupteisenbahndirektion Süd, HBD Süd) within Administration “East” (Betriebsleitung Osten, BLO). Renamed Reichsverkehrsdirektion Kiew on January 15, 1942 and placed under command of the Head Transportation Directorate “East” (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten, GVD Osten) in Warsaw. Transformation of the theater of war in September-October 1943 led to its redeployment from Kiev to Vinnytsia and soon after to Lemberg (Lvov) in December. Lemberg was the venue of a final call up in April 1944 and of a definitive disbandment of Reichsverkehrsdirektion Kiew on July 25, 1944.

RVD Kiew structure

Maintenance branches (Betriebsämter): station Bobrinskaya, Kasatin (Kozyatin), Kiev, Konotop, Kovel, Lubny, Vinnytsia, Vorozhba, Zdolbunov.

Repair depots (Maschinenämter): station Bobrinskaya, Kasatin (Kozyatin), Kiev, Konotop, Kovel, Lubny, Vinnytsia.

Executive branches (Verwaltungsämter): station Bobrinskaya, Kiev, Konotop, Kovel, Vinnytsia.

Capital construction branches (Neubauämter): station Bobrinskaya, Kiev, Konotop, Kovel, Vinnytsia.

Known heads of RVD Kiew:  

04.08.1941 – February 1942: Erwin Landenberger
March 1942 – 05.12.1942: Dokteur-Ingenieur Gustav Dilli
06.12.1942 – 25.07.1944: Max Jacobshagen.

Imperial Transportation Directorate “Minsk” (RVD Minsk)

Established in Minsk on September 06, 1941 as General Railways Directorate “Centre” (Haupteisenbahndirektion Mitte, HBD Mitte) within Administration “East” (Betriebsleitung Osten, BLO). Renamed Reichsverkehrsdirektion Minsk on January 15, 1942 and placed under command of the Head Transportation Directorate “East” (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten, GVD Osten) in Warsaw.

Threatened by advancing Red Army RVD Minsk suffered redeployment since July 1944: on July 6 its headquarters was moved to Białystok,  on July 10 – to Lap, and finally on July 18 – to 1944 to Berent in Western Prussia (now Kościerzyna in Poland). The south-western span was placed under the command of the Eastern Railways District Directorate Warsaw (Ostbahn- Bezirksdirektion Warschau) on July 19, 1944.

Reichsverkehrsdirektion Minsk was disbanded on July 24, 1944 by the order of the Imperial Transport Ministry. “German” spans in Brest-Litovsk and Lapy – Małkinia-Górna railway hauls were transferred to OBD Warschau, and on July 25 “German” spans Korschyn (Korycin) – Prostken (Prostki) as well as railway haul Lapy – Sniadowo – to RBD Königsberg.

RVD Minsk structure

Maintenance branches (Betriebsämter): Baranovichi, Brest-Litovsk, Gomel, Kalinkovichi, Minsk, Mogilev, Molodechno, Orsha, Polozk, Unecha.

Repair depots (Maschinenämter): Brest-Litovsk, Gomel, Minsk, Smolensk, Polozk.

Executive branches (Verwaltungsämter): Brest-Litovsk, Gomel, Minsk, Smolensk, Polozk.

Capital construction branches (Neubauämter): Baranovichi, Brest-Litovsk, Gomel, Minsk, Mogilev, Polozk.

Known heads of RVD Minsk: 

04.08.1941 – 18.07.1942: Gerhard Steffler
19.07.1942 – 27.07.1944: Prof. Dr Fritz Grimm, holder of a Ritterkreuz des Kriegsverdienstkreuzes mit Schwertern (07.12.1943).

Imperial Transportation Directorate “Poltava” / “Rostov” (RVD Poltawa / Rostow)

Established in Poltava on September 06, 1941 as General Railways Directorate “East” (Haupteisenbahndirektion Ost, HBD Ost) within Administration “East” (Betriebsleitung Osten, BLO). Redesignated Reichsverkehrsdirektion Poltawa on January 15, 1942 and placed under command of the Head Transportation Directorate “East” (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten, GVD Osten) in Warsaw. Directorate was moved to Rostov on September 05, 1942 and was renamed RVD Rostow. Imperial Transportation Directorate “Rostov” was disbanded on November 22, 1942, while its material and technical resources were handed to RVD Dnjepropetrowsk.

RVD Rostow structure

Maintenance branches (Betriebsämter): Dnepropetrovsk, Dolginzevo, Nikolayev, Poltava, Zaporozhye, Simferopol, Znamenka, Stalino-1, Stalino-2.

Repair depots (Maschinenämter): Dnepropetrovsk, Poltava, Zaporozhye, Simferopol, Znamenka, Stalino.

Executive branches (Verwaltungsämter): Dnepropetrovsk, Poltava, Zaporozhye, Simferopol, Znamenka, Stalino.

Capital construction branches (Neubauämter): Dnepropetrovsk-1, Dnepropetrovsk-2, Kherson, Dolginzevo, Zaporozhye, Simferopol, Znamenka, Stalino, Usel (Nizhnedneprovsk-Usel).

Heads of RVD Poltawa/Rostow:

06.10.1941 – 01.06.1942: Dokteur-Ingenieur Albert Ganzenmüller
02.06.1942 – November 1942: Karl Meyer.

Imperial Transportation Directorate “Riga” (RVD Riga)

Established in Riga on September 06, 1941 as General Railways Directorate “North” (Haupteisenbahndirektion Nord, HBD Nord) within Administration “East” (Betriebsleitung Osten, BLO). Renamed Reichsverkehrsdirektion Riga on January 15, 1942 and placed under command of the Head Transportation Directorate “East” (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten, GVD Osten) in Warsaw. Course of hostilities forced it transfer to Bromberg (Bydgoszcz) in July 1944, and then to Reppen in the environs of Frankfurt (Oder) on January 22, 1945. Imperial Transportation Directorate “Riga” was finally disbanded in January 1945.

RVD Riga structure

Maintenance branches (Betriebsämter): Dünaburg (Daugavpils), Reval (Tallinn), Schaulen (Šiauliai), Vilna (Vilnius).

Repair depots (Maschinenämter): Reval, Riga, Vilna.

Executive branches (Verwaltungsämter): Reval, Riga, Vilna.

Capital construction branches (Neubauämter): Dorpat (Tartu), Dünaburg, Kovno (Kaunas), Riga, Rositten (Rēzekne).

Heads of RVD Riga:

04.08.1941 – 19.07.1942: Kurt Westphal
20.07.1942 – October 1944: Hans Bell.

Corresponding sleeve eagles were worn since December 1942 by personnel of four Directorates: RVD Dnjepropetrowsk, RVD Kiew, RVD Minsk and RVD Riga. Emblems of RVD Poltawa/Rostow never existed because of relatively brief existence of that Directorate.

Reichsbahn 41 45 Plate 3

4. Emblems of General Transportation Directorates (Hauptverkehrsdirektion(en), HVD)

Two General Transportation Directorates were established in occupied Belgium and France in 1942 to supervise civil rail traffic until 1944. 

- HVD Brüssel
- HVD Pari

Reichsbahn 41 45 Plate 4

5. Emblems of other divisions

- GVD Osten (Generalverkehrsdirektion Osten) – Head Transportation Directorate “East”, also known as Eastern Railways Directorate (Ostbahndirektion) with headquarters in Warsaw was responsible for supervision of all railroad operations in the occupied territories of the USSR. GVD Osten controlled five Reichsverkehrsdirektionen described above, i.e. RVD Dnjepropetrowsk, RVD Kiew, RVD Minsk, RVD Poltawa/Rostow and RVD Riga.

- Ostbahn – Eastern Railways, a structure controlling railway traffic in the occupied Polish territories under joint administration of Imperial minister of Transport Dr.-Ing. Julius Heinrich Dorpmüller and Governor of General Government Dr.Hans Michael Frank.

- Rb GKMot (Reichsbahn Großkraftfahrzeuge und Motoren-Instandsetzungsdienst) – Heavy Vehicles and Engine Maintenance Service of Imperial Railways.

- RKS (Reichskommisariat für die Seeschifsfahrt) – Imperial Commissariat of Maritime Traffic.

- ROB (Reichs Omnibusverkehrsgesellschaft m.b.H. [mit beschränkter Haftung]) – Imperial Omnibus Transportation Public Company. This obscure organization was responsible for running multibranch system of passenger buses over fixed routes as an indispensable alternative to regular railway service.

Reichsbahn 41 45 Plate 5

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